USF Pharmacy Class of 2020 stampedes into the future

Members of the USF College of Pharmacy Class of 2020 marked their entry into the profession at the sixth annual White Coat Ceremony Sept. 16 in the Marshall Student Center ballroom. The 101 new Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) students pledged their commitment to integrity, ethical behavior and honor that are hallmarks of the pharmacy profession.

“Receipt of your first white coat is a very personal and special occasion, although the white coat does not contain any magical powers, one cannot help but feel difference once cloaked,” said Amy Schwartz, PharmD, associate dean of academic affairs at the USF College of Pharmacy, who began the ceremony reminding students of the qualities a white coat symbolizes.

“The coat provides a sense of confidence and immediate awareness of the associated professional obligations, responsibility and accountability. Each student has made it to this day following different paths. However, hard work, motivation and passion unites them as a class.”




Edmund Funai, MD, chief operating officer and vice president for administration for USF Health and vice president for strategic development for the USF System, praised the incoming class.

“This class was chosen from a robust pool of applicants who garnered high scores on their PCAT exams and one of the highest GPA’s of any incoming class,” Dr. Funai said. “We started out with a talented class and I’m confident they will excel in the next phase of their professional journey. Today’s ceremony represents the first step in becoming a pharmacists, I personally think that these white coats do have a little magic.”


Dr. Edmund Funai, chief operating officer for USF Health and vice president for strategic development for the USF System, addresses the new class. (Photo by Anna Mayor)

The students were also welcomed into their new profession by leading representatives of all four USF Health Colleges:  Bryan Bognar, MD, vice dean of educational affairs for the Morsani College of Medicine; William Quillen, PT, DPT, PhD, FACSM, senior associate dean for the Morsani College of Medicine and director of the School of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Sciences; and Donna Petersen, ScD, CPH, senior associate vice president for USF Health, dean of the College of Public Health and interim dean of the College of Nursing.

The consensus from the representatives was that together we can all improve health care, and that if any student needed help they do not have to go far.


Dr. Kevin Sneed, dean of the USF College of Pharmacy

Kevin Sneed, PharmD, senior associate vice president for USF Health and dean of the College of Pharmacy, opened up his welcome with a story about his extraordinary week helping a patient. He stressed the importance of patient-centered care.

“I’m encouraging all of you that no matter what you do we must do better,” Dr. Sneed said. “We all have an obligation to do better for our patients. We must have more advocacy, more influence and more technological advances to make sure that we are doing everything for that patient and the millions like them.”

Sharing the significance of the doctor of pharmacy degree, he said, “When you get a clinical doctoral degree or any doctoral degree across the world, it’s unlike any other degree you will obtain. When you get a bachelor’s degree we say, ‘Good luck’; when you get you master’s degree we say, ‘Do well’; but when you get your doctoral degree we say, ‘Welcome’.”

Dr. Sneed then recognized pharmacy student Christopher Konig, Class of 2018, for being named the first ever recipient of the Bristol Myers Squibb USF College of Pharmacy Scholar award. Not only will Konig be able to interact with Bristol Myers Squibb for the next two years, the scholarship he will receive will also pay for all of his tuition for his remaining time at the USF College of Pharmacy.


Bristol Myers Squibb USF College of Pharmacy Scholar Christopher Konig.

As keynote speaker, Chris Christopoulos, PharmD, health care supervisor at Walgreens Boots Alliance, shared with the students a theme that had resonated with him – responsibility.

“For each one of you who sits here today, there are at least five or six others who didn’t make it,” said Dr. Christopoulos. “So that in it of itself brings an awesome responsibility. There is a level of respect that comes with that white coat because it represents all that you have achieved, but it also represents the responsibility you have to make the most of this opportunity.”

In his final sentiment, Dr. Christopoulos said, “You represent a sense of hope and it is our hope that you will do more, that you will carry the torch further than we were able to.”

Keynote Speaker Dr. Chris Christopoulos.

Keynote Speaker Dr. Chris Christopoulos.

After presenting Dr. Christopoulos with the College’s traditional keynote speaker award, Dr. Sneed used his cell phone to snap a selfies with Dr. Christopoulos and the students.

Dr. Sneed and Dr. Christopoulos taking the traditional selfie.

Dr. Sneed and Dr. Christopoulos taking the traditional selfie.

Following the keynote address, Heather Petrelli, MA, PhD, assistant professor and associate dean of clinical affairs at the College of Pharmacy, gave an account of a conversation she had with the students before the ceremony.

“We always put a challenge to the students, who are you going to be?” Dr. Petrelli said. “Now is your opportunity to develop how you’re going to represent yourself in the profession of pharmacy in the future. And then a student, Brittany Smith, raised her hand and said to me that the students have already given this some thought; they are the class of 2020 and they have perfect vision for the future.”

Each student was then helped by College of Pharmacy faculty as they put on their own white coat, which included their name embroidered on the front and a note from its donor in the pocket.


In conclusion of the ceremony, Angela M. Hill, PharmD, professor and chair of the Department of Pharmacotherapeutics and Clinical Research and associate dean of Clinical Affairs for the USF College of Pharmacy, led the Class of 2020 as they took the Oath of Professionalism. Together, they pledged their commitment to integrity, ethical behavior and honor that are hallmarks of the pharmacy profession.


The USF Pharmacy Class of 2020 contains an array of outstanding and bright students; here are some of their stories.

Ruxandra Ivascu.

Ruxandra Ivascu

Ruxandra Ivascu: As the Class of 2020’s newly elected president, Ivascu hopes to unite her fellow colleagues into the exuberant group of visionaries that they are. She is all already envisioning a plethora of innovative ways to advance their profession into the future and believes that they are just the right individuals to take on this challenge. Ivascu attended USF from 2006-2007 during which she switched from a MBA path to journalism. She later returned to school in 2013 after starting her own small business in order to pursue entering into the PharmD program at USF.

What interests Ivascu most about pharmacy is the direction in which it is heading; more specifically, the field of pharmacogenomics and nanotechnology. She believes that we are at the horizon of some incredible medical discoveries that will change the course of medicine, health care, and human longevity. Her future aspirations are currently fairly varied. As much as she would love to delve into research she would be as delighted to work in a clinical setting as well. Ivascu wants to remain open to new opportunities that may peak her interest over the next few years as well, as there is much to learn.

Hayato Delellis

Hayato Delellis.

Hayato Delellis: Delellis earned his bachelor’s of science degree at USF in biomedical science.  What interests him the most about pharmacy is the idea of how readily pharmacists are able to supply information to individuals. He has always held a soft spot for children and is interested in working as a pediatric pharmacist. It makes Delellis feel truly appreciated to be welcomed in this pharmacy program that holds students to such a high standard. Receiving the white coat to him not only shows a more tangible sign of how hard, not only he, but all of his classmates had to work to be here today. It is also a reminder of the responsibility that goes into being a clinician and the start of reaching a long-held goal.

Rachel Fanti.

Rachel Fanti

Rachel Fanti: Fanti completed her undergraduate education at USF earning a bachelor’s of science degree in microbiology. She is interested in pharmacy’s vast diversity and believes that pharmacy is not only a science based of drug action and physiology, but also a discipline centered on clinical practice and patient care. Fanti will begin practicing at the Boys and Girls club next semester, and feels that is important to take on this professional role early in the program. She appreciates that the USF College of Pharmacy provides its students with such opportunities at the start of pharmacy school and is excited to begin her transition into the role of a clinician.

Story by Caitlin Keough, USF College of Public Health

Photos by Ryan Noone, USF College of Nursing